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Chapter 1: Overview of Mental Health Issues ............................. 7 Chapter 2: Is Professional Treatment Necessary for Mental Health? ................................... 27 Chapter 3: Should Mental Health Professionals Advocate for Medication? . ....................................... 47 Chapter 4: Can the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health Be Lifted? . ........................................ 65 Chapter 5: Should Annual Mental Health Checkups Be Required? ............................................ 83 Series Glossary of Key Terms ................................................... 100 Organizations to Contact . ....................................................... 101 Further Reading . ..................................................................... 102 Internet Resources . ................................................................. 103 Chapter Notes .......................................................................... 104 Index ....................................................................................... 108 Author’s Biography and Credits . ............................................. 112 K E Y I C O N S T O L O O K F O R : Words to Understand: These words with their easy-to-understand definitions will increase the reader’s understanding of the text while building vocabulary skills. Sidebars: This boxed material within the main text allows readers to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspectives by weaving together additional information to provide realistic and holistic perspectives. Educational videos: Readers can view videos by scanning our QR codes, providing them with additional educational content to supplement the text. Examples include news coverage, moments in history, speeches, iconic sports moments, and much more! Text-Dependent Questions: These questions send the reader back to the text for more careful attention to the evidence presented there. Research Projects: Readers are pointed toward areas of further inquiry connected to each chapter. Suggestions are provided for projects that encourage deeper research and analysis. Series Glossary of Key Terms: This back-of-the-book glossary contains terminology used throughout this series. Words found here increase the reader’s ability to read and comprehend higher-level books and articles in this field.


anxiety— a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks. mental illness— a health condition that affects the mind and its ability to process data and information, as opposed to a condition that affects the body’s organs or systems. physiological— having to do with the body and the way its organs and systems process any input they receive from internal or external sources. stigma— a mark of shame associated with a circumstance, or a societal shunning of a person or group of people for a specific trait or reason.



Mental illnesses have been part of life as long as human beings have existed. Like physical illnesses, mental health problems can strike anyone at any time. Some peo- ple are born with mental health issues, and others develop them later in life. But while these concerns are common, they aren’t talk- ed about in the same way as physical health

issues. Why? Because of the stigma surrounding them. Creating conditions where people are comfortable having open conversations about mental health can help people with these disorders live better, fuller, and happier lives. In order to understand mental health, people must first have a clear picture of what mental health is. This includes more than “what people think.” It encompasses social, psychological, and emotional strength and well being. Relating to other people, handling stress in healthy ways, and making good choices are all a part of mental health, and all of these things can be disturbed when mental illness occurs. For example, someone who has depression may not make good choices when it comes to hygiene or proper eat- ing, because they are struggling to care about taking good


care of themselves. Or, a person suffering from anxiety may avoid social situations that could bring them closer to other people and help them develop friendships, because they are fearful of going out or worried about what others are going to think of them. These are only a couple of examples, and not everyone with mental illness will share those feelings. There are also many different types of mental illness besides depression and anxiety, so the experiences of someone with one type of mental health problem may be very different than the experiences of someone else with a different kind of men- tal health concern. 1 Unfortunately, throughout history people with mental illness have often been ignored, shunned, or locked away. It is only in recent decades that open discussion of men- tal health issues has become more common. Today, most people agree that no one should be ashamed of a mental health condition, especially one that they cannot help or control. Even with the shift in thinking, there are still many people who don’t understand mental health issues and who aren’t comfortable around people who have men- tal illness. Helping people to better understand mental health issues will take time and effort. WHY IS MENTAL HEALTH IMPORTANT? Like physical health, mental health matters to the proper functioning of the body, and to overall health and happi- ness. When people struggle with mental health issues and


Contemporary Issues: Mental Health

Doctors and scientists continue working to understand how the human mind works. As their knowledge has grown, new facilities have been created to help those suffering from mental illnesses.

don’t get the help they need, they can have a more difficult time staying healthy in general. Mental health issues can affect a person’s physiological systems, and if the disorder is not treated there can sometimes be irreversible damage done to their bodies. That’s why it’s so important for peo- ple to get mental health treatment and for them to be able to talk about their concerns. If they can do that, they’ll have a higher chance of living a healthier life overall.


Overview of Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues can be caused by a lot of different things, and not everything affects a person in the same way it would affect other people. That’s another reason why it’s important to talk about mental health, because a past trau- ma or issue in life could really be a problem for someone, where someone else could have gotten through it without any concerns. There are brain chemistry and processing

Traumatic incidents, such as the death of a loved one or exposure to war-zone conditions during military service, can result in mental health problems.


Contemporary Issues: Mental Health

“Nobody can save you but yourself, and you’re worth saving. It’s a war not easily won, but if anything is worth winning then this is it.” 2 —Charles Bukowski, poet and writer

reasons behind the differences in the way people handle things. 3 Additionally, being able to talk to someone about a trauma or fear can help a person feel safer and more secure about their mental health. When a person has a mental illness, they may not take care of themselves very well. They could eat poorly, not get enough sleep, take dangerous chances, have trouble with managing money or keeping a job, or even get into danger- ous behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse. Not everyone with mental illness will do these things, and some people engage in these kinds of behaviors even though they ar- en’t mentally ill, but there is a correlation between men-


Overview of Mental Health Issues

tal health issues and people getting into behaviors and patterns that aren’t good for their long-term health, their finances, or their prospects for a successful career and personal life. If more people could talk about the mental health issues they had, and if they felt safe to express themselves, there could be less of a stigma surrounding mental health. 4 Then additional people would start talking, and soon there would be more openness about issues that are faced. That way people can do more than just try to pretend they’re feeling okay, and try to hide their mental illness by appear- ing “normal” as much as possible. Having to fake health so people don’t judge them is a struggle faced by a lot of people with mental illness, and it’s a struggle that can be avoided by removing the stigma of mental illness. WHAT MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES ARE MOST COMMON? In today’s society, the most common mental health prob- lems are anxiety and depression. These are present in a large percentage of the population, and they are far more pronounced in some people than in others. There are also a lot of different forms of these mental health issues. For ex- ample, some people have social anxiety, where they strug- gle to go out and interact with other people. Some people have health anxiety, so they either avoid the doctor for fear of what might be found wrong or they go to the doctor all the time, thinking that there’s some serious physical health problem happening in their body.


Contemporary Issues: Mental Health

In those who have depression, it could be a major prob- lem that affects a lot of their life or it could be something that’s more situational or even seasonal. Even two people with the same, identical diagnosis won’t have the exact same symptoms and level of feeling or discomfort. That’s because mental illness is a very personal experience, and what works for one person may not work for another when trying to improve functioning or make themselves feel bet- ter. All human beings experience the world through their our own unique lens. No two people are quite the same, and that includes the way they process the world. Because issues like anxiety and depression affect such a large number of people, at least at some point in their life, they have a slightly smaller stigma than other types of mental health issues which may be less subtle to an

Scan here for stories of people who suffer from mental illness.


Overview of Mental Health Issues

outsider looking in. 5 Problems like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and personality disorders are more “serious” than anxiety and depression in some ways, and they are certain- ly not as well understood by society. They generally involve a much higher level of stigma and judgment, often because people who have them can seem “crazy” in the way they act if they don’t have the proper treatment plan. No matter what kind of mental health issue a person has, though, talking about it can be difficult. People with mental illness fear judgment, and many of them assume they will either be blamed for their illness or they will not be taken seriously. Often, people with depression and anxiety are told to “get over it” by people who don’t under- stand that mental illness isn’t something that can just be turned on and off like a switch. Just because a person has a safe, secure, “good” life by society’s standards doesn’t mean they don’t have depression or they aren’t anxious. Mental health doesn’t work that way. WHAT DOES TREATMENT INVOLVE? There are several different approaches for treating mental health issues, including counseling, medication, or some combination of the two. Not everyone who has mental health concerns needs one of these treatment approaches. Others choose one of the options but don’t need or want the other one. But which option is the right one? That de- pends on the person, the type and degree of mental illness they have, their overall health, and other factors.


Contemporary Issues: Mental Health

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